I've given some nighttime tripod work a go recently to shoot the LA skyline, which is not my normal fare. I'm a handheld natural light guy for almost everything I shoot.
I shoot a 5D3, and I'll upload two shots I took -- one with the 24-70 F/4 IS (on the 70mm end) and the other with the 70-200 F/2.8 IS II (around 165mm). I'll run through my method, and I welcome any and all pointers you have for taking the shot or post-processing it.
As you'll see, I'm a novice at this -- many simple pointers should immediately come to mind if you've done this before.
Starting declaration: I'm an aperture-priority shooter 98% of the time. I'd rather not climb 'why don't you shoot manual?' mountain in this thread unless you feel it is absolutely necessary, thanks.
1) Set tripod, frame shot, level the shot in viewfinder, weigh the tripod down, hook on the corded shutter release, etc.
2) Switch IS off
(it was windy, but not that windy. Was worried about the IS motor actually inducing shake. Does that still happen, or are those lenses tripod sensing?)
3) Switch to manual focus, turn LiveView on, set ISO to 100.
4) As I was not shooting anything remotely close to me (see shots), I set aperture for the sharpness sweet spot of the lens, somewhere between F/5.6 and F/8.
5) Meter (left it on evaluative, see #7 later for my rinse and repeat method)
6) In 10x LiveView, I manually focused on a building in the skyline. I kind of threw out the classic 'focus 1/3 of the way into the frame', hyperfocal considerations, etc. because, again, most everything would have focused out to infinity with this framing.
7) Take shot. Due to shooting a nighttime scene in Av, it was much brighter than needed, so I used exposure comp and brought it down to something more like my native eye would see (-1EV to -2EV depending on the shot in question). I sort threw the histogram out the window in this case, as the goal of the shot was clearly not a bell-curved histogram.
8 ) Take final shot or shots (sometimes I bracket three on +/- 1 EV just in case). Shot in RAW.
POST-PROCESSING (I use PS's native Adobe Camera Raw tool, which is nutty, I know. But all the sliders are there, running -100 to +100 if you haven't used ACR before.)
1) Set WB to tungsten and that lifted the horrific Blade Runner-ian amber haze of LA at night. We all will likely disagree on that call, but I felt it let me capture the true light were I there on the street near the larger signs.
2) Given the crazy contrast (I don't like HDR work particularly), I push shadows up somewhat (+30) and pulled back highlights immensely (-80).
3) I actually give up on avoiding black clipping and went -30 on blacks and +30 on contrast. The goal to me is a crisp night shot, so I don't want to invest a lot of work to make a murky dark part of the skyline slightly more recognizable at the cost of a ton of noise.
4) I give a slight boost to luminance (+15) and a very small kick to saturation (+3).
5) Skipped lens correction work as this aperture wouldn't vignette, the shot was already straight/level, and chromatic aberration was already handled in camera as the 5D3 had profiles for both lenses.
6) Sharpness runs 0 to 125 in ACR I believe, and with such a low ISO, I can climb up to 75 with both lenses before I've 'overcooked' the sharpening. (I always sharpen and do noise reduction at 100% pixel view.)
7) Didn't pursue noise reduction (again, low ISO shot, didn't want to trade sharpness for noise reduction with so little noise.).
8 ) Exported to PS.
9) Cropped to taste (prefer to do this in PS for some reason) and save as 10 quality JPG. I only save PSD or CR2 files if I plan to take a shot to print, which is rare in my case.
Didn't use filters or deliberately aim for a long or short shutter speed. I left the big stopper in my bag as there were no clouds or waterfalls (lol), and no large field of traffic to blur. This just didn't seem like the right place to use it.
Again, please see attached and help me along.